Frequently asked questions

Is my idea patentable?

The European Patent Office requires inventions to have technical character. Inventions might stem from any technical field. The European Patent Convention further names the criteria (1) novelty, (2) inventive step and (3) industrial applicability as requirements. The criteria are analogous to German patent law.

  1. Novelty: An invention is new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The state of the art comprises everything made available to the public before the filing of the application.
  2. Inventive step: An invention involves an inventive step if it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.
  3. Industrial applicability: An invention is industrially applicable if it can be made or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture. The criterion should not be confounded with economically reasonable.

In practice, the first two criteria are the greatest hurdles in the application procedure. As a basic principle, everything can be patented that is not explicitly excluded in the law. Products and processes can be subject of a patent. Protection rights are for example granted for:

  • Plants and machinery
  • Industrial or technical processes
  • Materials
  • Alloys
  • (Natural) chemical and pharmaceutical material
  • Usage of material

Explicitly excluded by European patent law are the following inventions:

  • Discoveries of phenomena that exist in nature
  • Scientific theories
  • Mathematical methods
  • Aesthetic creations
  • Schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business
  • Computer-implemented inventions and presentations of information
  • Biological inventions (plants, animals and breeding techniques)
  • Medical methods
  • Ideas that breach public order or morality

This overview should give you a first indication. We strongly recommend scrutinizing your invention together to decide whether it is patentable. It might be possible that, for example, there is a technical application case for a mere discovery. Software is also often a grey area. It can not be patented as such but might very well be part of a technical solution. Attention must also be paid to differences in jurisdictions. In the US, criteria (1) and (2) are also imposed by law, whereas (2) is named non-obviousness. But differences in eligibility criteria exist(ed) between the US and Europe. They have practical consequences e.g. for the patentability of business models, software and human biological material such as stem cells.

I want to publish my idea soon. Do I have to apply for a patent in advance?

Yes. Because by publishing your invention it becomes state of the art. It no longer fulfills the novelty requirement. A publication can be done orally or in writing: on a symposium, online, on a poster, in a journal or in a talk to other scientists. Contact us at an early stage in order that patent and publication do not get in each other’s way.

I am an independent inventor. Can I still draw on the Patentverwerter’s services?

No, we do not take over projects from independent inventors at present.

What happens if my idea does not turn into a patent?

We are a partner of science and experts in transferring innovative technologies into the market. That is the common thread of all our projects. A patent is a popular means of protecting an idea. Some great ideas, however, do not meet the patenting criteria. That does not mean that an idea is worthless. Software and Algorithms, for example, are not patentable but are virtually the embodiment of innovation today. There are other ways to protect and to market ideas. We do not let you down if you do not get a patent. If we are convinced of the innovative power of your idea, we make sure that it blazes its trail into the market.

Patents are expensive. Why shouldn’t I simply keep my idea secret?

It is true that patents, especially those with broad claims, are costly. For a national application at the German Patent Office you spend around EUR 5,000 until issue. An application at the European Patent Office easily costs twice as much. It is therefore not only legitimate to ask the question whether that pays off. The question must be raised. We try to answer it by applying a rational cost-benefit analysis. But to our clients we always point out the risks they run when not seeking a patent:

  • There is the risk that another party makes the same invention independently and applies for a patent itself.
  • For innovative companies, intellectual property is its backbone. Patents protect this backbone. They prevent competitors from simply copying an idea without ever having invested in its development. A patent ensures a temporary competitive advantage that allows to amortize investments and earn a profit.
  • For research organizations, inventions are daily business. They are the “products” that scientists “produce”. Patents stand for success in research. Research organizations without patents are like companies with no output. Internal and external rankings use the number and quality of patents as an indicator for scientific achievements. The reputation of the organization often depends on the ranking. It is also not uncommon to link the ranking to salaries and research funds.
  • Today, employees – whether in companies or research organizations – often change their employer. And take their knowledge with them. Patenting an invention made inhouse ensures that rights remain where ideas have originated.
  • With the patent application an inventor publishes his findings. This is tantamount to publishing in a renowned journal in academia. Having your name on a patent is prestigious and can be a unique feature on the labor market. In some jurisdictions, inventors also profit financially.
  • Patents are no longer only seen as shields to safeguard your technology. They are more and more considered to be tradable assets that contribute significantly to company value.
What distinguishes the Patentverwerter from technology transfer offices (TTO)?

TTOs in Germany and other countries have usually been set up on the initiative of single universities, colleges, research institutes, public banks or federal states. They exclusively support those inventions that have originated from their own organization or geographical territory. Or they specialize in a certain industry. We, the Patentverwerter, are independent. Independent of public funding. Independent of single research organizations. Independent of political interests. Independent of geographical borders and branches. We support inventors from no matter which research organization. This independence is an advantage. Because we get an insight into different research cultures. That is how we are able to identify best practice and to draw on different concepts. And that is why we provide objective consulting.

And there is yet another point in which we are different. We do not consider ourselves as brokers. It is not enough for us to offer a pool of ideas to potential investors in which they can fish. We assume responsibility for every project that we take part in. As a vital partner, we perform operative tasks where necessary. And we focus – more than others – on founding a company as a way of monetizing an idea. In contrast to classical licensing, founding requires more dedication and a higher risk. But in our eyes, “doing it yourself” is often the best or even only way of monetizing a patent. We do not shy away from going that way with you.

What do the Patentverwerter and what do patent attorneys do?

Patent attorneys represent their clients in the application at the patent office and in litigations in court. The term is used differently in different countries, and thus may or may not require the same legal qualifications as a general legal practitioner. In Germany, patent attorneys hold a degree in a scientific or technical discipline and have completed additional training in patent law. In the US, patent attorneys and patent agents must have passed the so-called “patent bar”, an examination at the USPTO. To be admitted to the patent bar, applicants must either hold a scientific or technical degree, prove similar training or equivalent practical experience.

It is a patent attorney’s duty to translate technical inventions into a formally correct, legal language. They also communicate with patent examiners who decide on the case. We, the Patentverwerter, work closely together with different attorneys. The technical background of a patent attorney can be decisive for the outcome. But some attorneys are also successful outside their subject area. We gladly recommend the right attorney from our network. And we contribute with the market perspective to the discussion. It is essential to go through the different monetization options before the filing to define the target market. This is where the legal-technical background of the patent attorney and the economic expertise of the Patentverwerter complement each other.

How are the Patentverwerter remunerated?

Our services are either remunerated as a fixed fee (on a daily basis) or as a percentage of proceeds. Since we believe in the economic viability of our projects, a mixture of fixed and profit-based remuneration is not uncommon and reduces the investment risks on your side. We gladly prepare an offer for your specific challenges.

When founding a company, we may invest in the start-up as a shareholder. Our commitment is long-term and dedicated. We also have the necessary know-how to organize a suitable financing solution with external partners. We either work with private investors (business angels, venture capital, private equity, commercial banks or strategic investors) or public investors (public banks, research funding, subsidy program) to put the new company on a solid basis.